Updated: Oct 14, 2019
In October 2019, Iranian authorities have released Hamid Babaei, 36, a PhD student at the University of Liege in Belgium, who was detained in August 2013 shortly after his return to Tehran and sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “communicating with hostile foreign governments and spying.” Throughout his incarceration, Babaei stated repeatedly that he was imprisoned for refusing to operate as an informant in Belgium for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
Babaei was first detained by Tehrani authorities in August 2013 when he returned home for a short visit. Following his arrest, Babaei was held and interrogated without any legal representation for over a month at Tehran's Evin Prison. He was later appointed a lawyer by the court.
According to Amnesty International, Babaei was summoned in July 2013 to the Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence office in Tehran. He was asked to cooperate with the agency and spy on Iranian students in Belgium, but he refused. A few days later, as he was about to board a plane to return to Belgium, he was told that he had been banned from leaving Iran. In a matter of few days, Babaei was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison where he spent 20 days in solitary confinement.
On December 21, 2013, in a sham trial that lasted less than 10 minutes, the infamous Judge Abolghasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Babaei to six years in prison for “cooperation with a hostile government.” According to Babaei’s wife, Kobra Parsajou, he was denied the right to have his own lawyer and was not informed that the court had chosen a lawyer for him. Throughout the short trial, that lawyer was silent, and Babaei was not allowed to speak in his own defense.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide welcomes the news of Babaei’s release with great relief and urges the officials of the Iranian government to end the tactic of taking foreign nationals and dual citizen scholars and students hostage for political gains and to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights.